Clutter

Clutter kills me.

When I look around my house and see things laying out of place, or an over cluttered counter or tabletop, it makes me insane. It makes my neck tense up.

It doesn’t even necessarily have to be at home. As soon as I get to work, after getting report on my patients, I start throwing things out. Empty bottles, cups, scribbled notes and stray papers all get immediately swept into the trash can. Then I can focus.

I even bang out the keyboard out onto the desk and then wipe the desk top.

With three kids in the house, the clutter adds up fast. I do my best every day to keep a handle on it, but every so often, I can feel it taking over. The toys spill out into the dining and living room, the craft cabinet overflows and starts pushing the curtain out of the way, the kitchen cabinets don’t quite close. We clean up overnight before bed, but there just doesn’t seem to be a place to put anything.

So with the dumpster already here for the basement clean out (not to mention that it’s free after the sale of my car), I thought “hey, why not clean out the whole house!”

I only wish I had more arms to carry stuff out with.

My first project is the kid’s playroom. With Abby’s 4th birthday and Christmas both coming up, I know its going to get out of control any minute.

Here are some unfiltered, cluttered up, uncleaned or put away or organized before images. The plan is to purge unused toys and junk then organize everything else into bins and baskets. Jeff is working on shelves and a reading bench for around the window.

Once upon a time this room was clean and neat and everything had a place. Pretty soon again it will be!

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Thankfulness and Giving

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There was a time when I wasn’t so grateful.

I remember when Sam was a baby and I worked second shift, I was blessed to have a babysitter that agreed to keep Sam until I got out of work at 11:30. Despite the fact that she had to be up, dressed and presentable to get her three kids off to school and greet her home daycare kids the next morning at 6am. One day she told me she couldn’t do it anymore. And I acted like such a B. Not only did I not thank her for taking him two nights a week for months, but I acted like it was her DUTY to take my kid on my crazy schedule.

What a jerk, huh?

This is an obvious example but I saw a need for more gratitude in my life. How often do we stop and really think of everything we have to appreciate? Not only to be grateful but to give back. This season of Thanksgiving really gets me thinking about it. God has given us so much; a beautiful healthy family, a comfortable home, steady employment, and the consciousness to see these assets and be good stewards of everything we were given. Or at least try to.

Giving is incorporated in Dave Ramsey’s 7 baby steps. We’re still deep into the debt repayment phase so right now we give a measly 1-2% of our yearly income either to charity or community outreach. We donate monthly to our local food bank. Every Christmas we pick out some farm animals as a family to donate to third world impoverished nations through Heifer International, and the kid’s school has a giving tree through a local church.

This year specifically, we chose a family of six (SIX!) children 1-12 off the giving tree.  We haven’t decided exactly what to give from Heifer, last year we gave a flock of chickens.

New for this year I also plan on making baked goods with the kids and delivering them to the fire house in town. I contacted the police department also, I just haven’t heard back from them about if they have a policy to accept donated food. Both the big kids love to help me in the kitchen, so this will be such a good way to introduce outward expressions of gratitude now that they are old enough to understand.

Years ago before we were so conscious of where our money went, I wouldn’t have ever though we had “extra money” hanging around for charitable donations. But as Dave Ramsey says, a budget is having a purpose for every dollar. We’ve worked giving into our budget and now view it as almost an investment. Not one we ever plan to see a financial or even tangible return on, but more an investment in our emotional lives and this of our children.

7 Years

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that yesterday was our 7th anniversary.

To my Husband,

Seven years ago, when we were just 21 and 22, I could see whispers of it, but I couldn’t see our future.

Through these first seven years, through ups and downs, hard times and wonderful times, I am so thankful of the man you are and the family we have.

I can’t wait to see where our next seven years, and beyond, lead us. I can’t see it any clearer than I could the day we both stood on the altar, but whatever it is I’m glad it will be with you.

I love you.

The Past Six Weeks

How is it already November 15th? I feel like I was just planning out October. I really wanted to be more active in this blog, even though it seems like its just for me. This whole wife/mother thing has really kept me super busy lately.

SO anyways, Operation October went very well. We officially have all the money we need to buy our brand new boiler saved up. And an unexpected blessing happened in the process.

After saving up all the money, we decided (with much urging from yours truly) to rent a huge dumpster and just totally purge almost everything in the basement. We had to do this anyways, but especially to make room to get the boiler in and for the guy to move around and work. After 7 years of marriage, 3 kids and 4 fast and unplanned moves, we never really had the chance to sort and purge things we didn’t need anymore, and boy does that stuff add up after a while.

Backstory: Until January Jeff and I both drove small compact sedans. With the impending arrival of baby Ben in February, we knew we needed room for the 3rd carseat, so Jeff traded in his fancy (stop smoking reward) car and we got the van for the same amount that was left on his car loan, less the $2000 down payment I had saved up. He inherited my car, a very basic model with power nothing that I had paid off years ago, leaving us with one car payment still.

In the spring, his grandmother said that she was getting a new car and asked if we wanted to buy her old one for $1200! Hers was newer than my old one, had a few options and about 50,000 less miles. Plus we had the cash saved up, so we jumped on it.

This of course left us with an extra car. And the extra insurance, excise tax, inspection and registration fees that go with it. So we tried a few different avenues to sell my old sedan. A few people looked, we tried a few dealership trade in deals, but we never got the price we wanted or were left with a really good feeling, so we just hung on to it and kept the faith.

Last Thursday Jeff took the day out of work to attend the kid’s Veterans Day show at school, so he had the dumpster delivered as he would have the rest of the day off for purging. We’ve rented a few and always use this one guy who does canisters as a side income.

Turns out, he was looking for a car! He came back Saturday and drove it around. It needed some work so he asked what we would take. We said $1200, making us even after buying Jeff’s grandmother’s. He offered $1000 and he wouldn’t charge for the dumpster. Deal of the century!!

I’m so relieved that we got a deal we were comfortable with. I’m hanging on to the money he gave us incase he changes his mind or finds something he really doesn’t like with the car. I’d hate to spend it and then have to take from our savings to give it back. Plus I watch way too much Judge Judy where all people do is sue over private car sales lol.

So thankful that car is gone and hoping that the transaction is over and everything comes up roses. Now we’re deciding whether to put the money towards paying off 2 of my ever lingering student loans or making a big payment on the van, but I feel like this is a good problem to have 🙂

Our (Stupid) Boiler.

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I hate this thing.

Aside from the fact that it’s way down in the dark dirty basement, the thing is a relic.

Recently, looking to maybe buy some replacement parts and patch the thing up before we replace it, we discovered that it was most likely made in the 20’s (yes the 1920’s) and the company that manufactured them has been out of business since the 60’s. So in reality, its nothing short of a miracle that it even works at all. And though I don’t have any cold hard numbers, I imagine its not super green or efficient.

Note: The structure of our house was built in 1832 (as far as we can guess based upon the earliest paperwork we can find on it), but because it didn’t have plumbing, it wasn’t considered a proper dwelling and deeded until 1850.

Periodically it coughs itself awake for long enough to heat up enough water for a 7 minute shower (in the heart of winter its more like 3 minutes) or to fill up a bath for the kids. All other times, we get to treat ourselves to a room temperature shower or to a half an hour process of boiling water on the stove top and dumping it into the tub to wash the children.

For four. Long. Years.

Personally, I’ve had enough. Mama likes a hot shower in the winter.

Every year on New Years Eve we set financial goals for the year. This year we put “replace boiler” on the list. Obviously we could have done this at any point. We could have thrown it on the credit cards years ago. Or maybe taken out a small loan, used home equity. But that’s not what we’re all about anymore. Three years ago we resolved that all major purchases would be done with cash. Hence the budget etc etc.

So now that it’s almost October, the pressure is on to get this thing in. Its getting colder up here and I don’t know if I can do the whole take-a-bath-like-Laura-Ingalls-Wilder thing for another year.

But luckily, I have a plan. I call it Operation October. Mostly because Sam’s “favorite month” is October and he’s been talking about it for weeks.

Basically it entails zero spending. Nothing. Tightening up the belt so that nothing additional is spent all month, just the basic necessities. Utilities, mortgage, groceries. No take out, no special trips, no tokens or toys for the kids. I do plan on visiting Old Sturbridge Village this month because I take pictures of the kids there every year, but luckily its free admission for us because Jeff is a military veteran.

All month I plan on posting about how we’re doing, everything we’ve spent and tips to avoid spending, as some of us (this family included) might benefit immensely from using this “button down” technique for a month or more to help turn our finances around. Let’s go!

Bailey Family Summer Vacation

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Well another summer in the books. Tomorrow is the first day of fall.

Because Sam was in school all summer (due to developmental delays and sensory processing disorder that I’ll write about later), we really didn’t get away that much. Which is really ok with me because we weren’t tempted to spend bags of cash on vacations, which is SOOooo Temptinnnggg!!!!!

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We did make one day trip to the beach and then a long weekend the second week of September. Just enough to get away and enjoy the ocean. And eat a lobster roll. And have ice cream for supper.

The big kids love the beach so much. We get down there from the hotel by 8am. For real. I actually don’t mind the early wake up calls on vacation because early morning and after supper hours are my favorite times on the beach. So Jeff and I finish our coffee and the kids play, and Ben snuggles. Usually all with sweatshirts and blankets on (its cold up here!).

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The beach is so good for Sam. He can run and jump, roll around and crash into things, feel the cold water and splash. Usually he rubs sand in his hair and all over his body. Its such good sensory stimulation for him and he’s usually so incredibly calm and relaxed after a beach day.

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That being said, who would I be if i didn’t give my Vacation Money Saving Tips?

  • Budget for Your Vacation– and stick to it. Decide how much you’re willing to spend on a trip before you even book it. Then account for it in your monthly budget as if it was a bill that has to be paid.
  • Go Off-Season– We never do anything during peak season; too expensive and too people-y. Vacationing even a few days before or after can be huge savings.
  • Do a Long Weekend– vs. a week or more. This one just makes sense; less days in a hotel, less dining out, less time off work. You still get to get away. Remember you have a goal you’re working towards.
  • Brown Bag It-Going out to eat is expensive. Plan to bring at least 2 meals per day along with you. If your hotel has free continental breakfast, all the better. I usually plan and bring breakfast and lunch. Just make sure to call ahead and make sure you have a fridge, or fridge and microwave would be ideal.
  • Get Your Discounts– Military, AAA, student ID, check the discount policies for where you’re staying and see if you’re eligible. Then don’t forget to ask for it once you get there! Most discounts can only be applied at check in so don’t forget and leave money on the table!

But First, Coffee

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I love coffee. So much. Especially now that it’s fall in New England, a delicious hot pumpkin spice Great One with skim and sugar from Dunk’s would be an ideal start to my morning.

It’s not even really for the caffeine (ok maybe a little bit). I just love how it tastes. It’s nice and warm. Perfect way to wake up.

But its SOOOoooo expensive! I just can’t justify spending a couple of bucks every day on coffee. Plus, with that delicious coffee always comes a beautiful muffin… or an egg white flatbread.. donut for the kids… It ends up being $5-7 every. Day. Thats $35 a week.. $140 a month? Think of what you could do with that. I’ve written before about how I gave up drive-through coffee and bought a new couch. What Do You NEED Really?

Thankfully there’s a way to have your coffee AND meet your financial goals.

Most major coffee house chains have a take-home version that cost $6-10 a bag. My favorite is Boston’s Best, which at around $4 is so reasonable. A bag lasts me about 2 weeks and according to the lines on my pot, that’s 5 cups (I know, FIVE) per day.

There’s also a million different kinds of creamers in every flavor under the sun. Seasonal ones, classic ones, Dunkin Donuts even has a line out that mimics how you order at the window. International Delight is $3.19 a bottle and I get 2 for 2 weeks.

So I can have my coffee every day, a 5 cup large size, flavored exactly like or better than the window, for 74 cents per day. CENTS. A commercial cup is over $2.

Not convinced? This may be the one time you ever hear me say this but: Treat Yourself.

Buy a cute mug. A new coffee maker. A mug cozy. If you don’t feel like you’re depriving yourself you’ll be less likely to give up. I pour my iced coffee in a big mason jar all summer and drink it with a reusable straw. Frugal doesn’t have to be boring.

In this one instance, you’ll save so much money, that any new mug cup or cozy will be paid for in a week or so. Even if you buy a new mug every month, that pales in comparison to how much you’re used to paying at the counter or window.

Like a fancy drink? Get inspired with all these copy cat recipes on Pinterest. So tempting.